Experts debate U.S. military’s role in foreign affairs

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LBJ School of Public Affairs professor Eugene Gholz presented his opening statement during the debate over the role of American military power in foreign affairs Tuesday afternoon at Bass Lecture Hall.
Photo Credit: Briana Vargas | Daily Texan Staff

Eliot Cohen, director of the Strategic Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, and Eugene Gholz, LBJ School of Public Affairs professor, debated over the role of American military power in foreign affairs Monday afternoon at the Bass Lecture Hall.

Cohen said the American military must be able to maintain power and order across the world, and the only way to do that is for younger citizens to engage in foreign affairs.

“The world is dangerous and is getting more dangerous as we speak,” Cohen said. “We can’t hide behind an ocean anymore. The problems of the outside world are coming to us.”

Gholz, however, said the purpose of the American military is to protect its people and the military is not an opportunity to do good for the rest of the world.

“I am not saying we should ignore other parts of the world’s plights,” Gholz said. “I just think we should be cautious about what our military gives up for the world.”

Both Cohen and Gholz have experience working with the American military. Cohen, who served as counselor of the Department of State, advised the Secretary of State on matters pertaining to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Gholz served in the Pentagon as a senior advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, where he led initiatives to better understand the complex defense supply chain.

The debate was hosted by the Clements Center and the UT-Austin chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society.

According to Jennifer Johnson, program coordinator for the Clements Center, they hope to teach UT students about how vital the role of the military is and what role students can play in the military’s involvement in foreign affairs.

“Even if a student is studying law or art, these issues affect us all,” Johnson said. “This is a chance for students to learn about the military’s influence on the U.S.’s identity as a whole.”

Marcellus Mosley II, a public affairs graduate student, said this event gave him the chance to learn about the different policies surrounding the American military.

“It gave me a chance to decide on my position on what the American military should and shouldn’t do,” Mosley said. “All students should stay informed on our military because they have a chance to determine what policies actually go through.”